The fact is, it used to be way easier to grow a social following than it is today. People would get on Instagram, use some strategic hashtags, make some friends, get featured on the discover page and BOOM blow up quick. That’s just not the case any more. Many changes to the platform and the increased level of competition have changed the landscape for those trying to grow their followings.
One tactic that has emerged to help people increase engagement and beat the algorithm is Pods. Whether you swear by them or have sworn off them, here’s the lowdown on Pods.
What are Pods?
Basically a pod is a clique of people who agree to boost engagement on each other’s posts. This usually manifests as consistently liking and commenting on the posts made by members of the pod and doing so in a timely fashion
How do Pods get together?
Blogger Alex Tooby explains that one way Pods get together is through Instagram DMs: “A maximum of 15 people can be put into a group DM(direct message) where each member can easily share their photos and receive likes and comments from the other pod members.”
Since Instagram has limits on DM group size, Tooby explains that people have found other platforms to organize through:
“some Instagrammers have moved to an external app called Telegram to create much larger Instagram Pods (I’ve seen some with upwards of 3000+ members!) While having a larger Pod can mean more engagement on your photos it also is much more common to see “leechers” or people who simply show up, share their image but don’t give engagement back[...]”
This kind of communication allows all members of the Pod to be alerted immediately when a new post is ready for some group support instead of just relying on seeing the post as it appears naturally in your feed.
Do they work?
Some work better than others. Alex Tooby recommends the following tips for Pod success:
- Join more than one Pod
- Pick Pod mates who have a similar target audience to yours
- Pick Pod mates in your time zone
- If you don’t see a boost, ditch it and focus your time on engaging with your target audience
Are they “cheating”?
The question here is, how valuable do you find this kind of engagement. It’s not entirely organic… to say the least. However, this seems to hinge on a couple of factors, primarily:
Who’s in the Pod?
If you create a Pod full of likeminded content creators who are interested in the same products and topics as you, then you probably don’t have much to worry about. The engagement that you’re “manufacturing” is still engagement with a relevant audience. But if you’re in a gigantic Pod full of strangers you know nothing about and they’re commenting on your posts with meaningless things like the 100 emoji over and over again… then you’re probably not providing the most useful or relevant audience to your brand sponsors.
How big is the Pod?
Similar to the last point, this is about knowing how much your engagement is being boosted by relevant audiences. The smaller the Pod, the more likely you know that the engagement is meaningful to your brand and the topics you care about.
What are the “rules” of the Pod?
Does everyone in your Pod agree to engage with every post no matter what? Or do you have an agreement that you will alert each other of posts and then people can choose to like/comment on the ones that resonate with them? If you’re only engaging with posts that are actually meaningful to you-- and the other members of the Pod are doing the same, then there’s not much difference to the natural flow of Instagram except that you’re being alerted of new posts right away.
Creative Community Director at Snapfluence.
There is often a pen stuck in my hair.